Farmers in northeast Louisiana have been getting a little extra help making sound financial decisions since the LSU AgCenter reopened its FARM program.

The LSU AgCenter is operating a special program known as Farm Analysis and Resource Management — FARM, for short. The program operates from the LSU AgCenter's Sweet Potato Research Station at Chase, La., approximately 5 miles south of Winnsboro on La. Hwy. 15.

“The program is a response to the many requests for financial analysis we have received from northeast Louisiana farmers,” said Paul Coreil, vice chancellor of the LSU AgCenter.

Farmers across the state have been plagued by a variety of problems including droughts the past few years and excessive rainfall during critical periods last year — which contributed to reductions in crop yields. Other factors contributing to hard times for farmers include low commodity prices, higher petrochemical prices last year and other increasing costs.

“Low prices and below-average yields because of drought in the 1998-, 1999- and 2000-growing seasons plus the low prices received by farmers in 2001 and the yield-devastating rains this past fall have seriously eroded the financial position of many area farms,” said LSU AgCenter farm management specialist Gerald G. Giesler.

“These problems combined with the continued uncertainty about the U.S. farm bill have made it extremely difficult for farmers and their lenders to firm up plans for the upcoming crop season.”

As evidence of the problems with prices paid for selected Louisiana crops, Giesler compared corn, cotton, rice and soybean prices the past four years to the prices in the 10 years prior to that — and found marked decreases recently.

“Average corn prices for 1997-2001 were down 31 percent from the 1988-97 average,” Giesler said, adding, “The same sort of thing was true for average cotton prices, which were off by 23.4 percent, and rice and soybeans posted similar decreases in average prices.”

The 1997-2001 average for rice was off 19.9 percent from the previous 10 years, and soybean prices were down 21.3 percent.

Appointments to meet with faculty members will be available from 1 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Mondays; 8 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays; and 8 a.m. until noon on Fridays.

To make an appointment, call the LSU AgCenter's Sweet Potato Research Station at 318-435-2156.